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US lawmakers demand accountability from Pak

By Lalit K Jha in Washington
April 03, 2009 10:25 IST
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As the Barack Obama administration proposes to pump billions of dollars into Pakistan, United States' Congressmen have insisted that Islamabad must be made accountable in lieu of the massive aid.

Grilling top army and defense officials, members of the powerful House Armed Services Committee wanted to know from the officials, testifying before it, that the administration has a mechanism to ensure that more than $10 billion being given to Pakistan in the next five years does not end up the way it did during the Bush administration.

As announced last week, the Obama administration is supporting a legislation that would give $7.5 billion of non-military aid to Pakistan in the next five years and nearly $ 3 billion as military aid. Post-9/11, the Bush administration gave more than $10 billion to Pakistan as aid to fight terrorism.

US lawmakers charged that the money was wasted by the Pakistani establishment and no one was held accountable for this waste. This strategy must have accountability, insisted Congressman Ike Skelton, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, during a hearing on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"As Congress and the American people are being asked to put up a significant amount of resources over a sustained period, so there must be accountability and there must be a measurable return on this investment," he argued.

Testifying before the committee were Commander of US Central Command General David Petraeus; Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy and Commander of the US Special Operations Command Admiral Eric Olson. The three had appeared before the Senate Armed Services Committee a day before.

"What we're missing at the moment is details on how this strategy will be achieved, how progress will be measured. How will we assure that the Pakistanis step up and become real partners? What's the proposed new Pakistan counterinsurgency capability fund? How will it propose changing existing authorities? How will we effect real civil and military coordination on the ground in Afghanistan," asked Skelton.

Responding to the lawmakers' concerns, Flournoy said the US has to recognise the importance of Pakistan as a critical partner in achieving its core goal. "We have to work closely with them to be able to disrupt, and dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and their extremist allies and the safe haven that is in Pakistan," she said.

"I think the President's strategy is very much designed to start with a commitment to Pakistan that is reassuring to them, that recognises our common interests, and that gives them incentives to work closely with us. But, in addition to us stepping up and making that commitment to Pakistan, we also do need to follow up to ensure that their performance is meeting our common objectives as well," Flournoy said.

"What we're after, of course, is to build a relationship with them that can, in a sense, reassure them, after years of ups and downs with the Pakistanis," General Petraeus said. "That's something that will take a sustained substantial commitment on our part, in return for which, obviously, we can expect a sustained substantial commitment on their part," he said.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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